If you’re intrigued by artist Salvador Dalí, the Castell de Púbol is an essential piece of the puzzle. Between Girona and Palafrugell (22km northwest of the latter, south of the C66), this castle was Dalí’s gift to his wife and muse Gala. The Gothic and Renaissance building, with creepers tracing its walls, spiral stone staircases and a shady garden, was decorated according to Gala’s tastes. Nonetheless there are surrealist touches such as the grimacing anglerfish fountain and a sofa shaped like pouting lips.
The life of Gala Dalí is fascinating in its own right, due to her entanglement with several pivotal figures of the first half of the 20th century. Gala married poet Paul Éluard, had a two-year affair with pioneer of Dadaism Max Ernst, and then met Dali in 1929. With Dalí’s approval she continued to take lovers, though their loyalty to each other remained fierce. Russian-born Gala was as admired for her elegance as much as she was feared for her imposing manners.
Having promised to make Gala ‘queen of the castle’, in 1969 Dalí finally found the ideal residence to turn into Gala’s refuge. At the age of 76, Gala preferred to flit in and out of Dalí’s decadent lifestyle. Dalí was only permitted to visit the castle with advance written permission, a restriction that held considerable erotic charge for the artist.
Today the Castell de Púbol forms the southernmost point of the ‘Salvador Dalí triangle’, the other stops being the Teatre-Museu Dalí in Figueres and his home in Portlligat near Cadaqués. The sombre castle is almost an antithesis to the flamboyance of the Teatre-Museu Dalí and Dalí's seaside home.
To get here, catch a bus to Cruilla de la Pera from Girona (€3, 40 minutes, eight daily) or Palafrugell (€3.05, 25 minutes, seven to 14 daily), and alight at the stop on the C66 then walk the 2km to the castle. Alternatively take a train from Girona to Flaça (€3.30, 12 minutes, two to three daily), then catch a taxi the last 5km. Opening hours vary: there are early closures in November and December, longer hours from June to September, and the attraction goes into hibernation from January to March; check the website before visiting.